Will Artificial Intelligence Render Nigerian Journalists Unemployed?

Will Artificial Intelligence Render Nigerian Journalists Unemployed?
  • PublishedAugust 3, 2023

I vividly recall having a discussion with a senior journalists who used to be with the BBC and Times of London in her prime and now in semi-retirement keeps a regular column with Vanguard and The Africa Report.

She told me that while she was at the University in the UK in the 1970s spilling into the 1980s, she and her course mates used to laugh at their friends who were studying mass communication because in their opinion, not only did they lack a sturdy base as the course was a mishmash of a lot of courses which wasn’t really designed to create experts out of its graduates, journalists were born and not made just like musicians, writers, artists and other creatives. In their opinion, it made sense to study courses like political science, international relations, or history if one desired a career as a political journalist, economics, finance, or economic history if one had an eye for a financial journalist career, English, Linguistics, Languages if one wanted to be a good culture journalist. Studying mass communication was an American invention which was a gargantuan waste of precious time.


Journalism as a profession has undergone numerous changes from the days of Johann Carolus (1575-1634) was the publisher of the Relation aller Furnemmen und gedenckwurdigen Historien (Collection of all Distinguished and Commemorable News) which is the first newspaper in history to Iwe Irohin published by Henry Townsend – the first in Nigeria.

The internet and social media rendered the print media obsolete in a manner that caught media pundits and stakeholders napping. Just about any ‘idiot’ excuse my French can become a media mogul even surpassing the combination of Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg in this information age or Fourth Industrial Revolution Era.

The current buzzword is the reality of the presence of artificial intelligence which can handle certain human tasks and whether or not it will render journalists unemployed probably to the delight of the government of emerging economies who see the media as an adversary making their relationship rather bellicose and at best a conglomeration of strange bedfellows.


I have a friend who is currently doing his post-doctorate in Japan and he writes daily using the aid of a popular AI tool called Chat GPT. The writing is so flawless that it appears to be a threat to those who make their bread and butter in the media especially that has to do with the written word or content creation.

Stakeholders in the tech sector have raised concerns about it and even the world’s wealthiest man once called for the pause of further AI development so that it doesn’t constitute a threat to our collective human existence.

The largest publisher in Europe, German Axel Springer the owner of Bild, and the famous previously American owned Politico which they purchased, laid off many journalists because, in a leaked memo, the management said that AI had replaced their roles.

As reported by AFP: Alex Connock, author of “Media Management and Artificial Intelligence”, says that mastery of these AI tools will help decide which media companies survive and which ones fail in the coming years. And the use of content creation tools will see some people lose their jobs, he said, but not in the realms of analytical or high-end reporting. “In the specific case of the more mechanistic end of journalism — sports reports, financial results — I do think that AI tools are replacing, and likely increasingly to replace, human delivery,” he said.

Not all analysts agree on that point. Mike Wooldridge of Oxford University reckons ChatGPT, for example, is more like a “glorified word processor” and journalists should not be worried. RECOMMENDED FOR YOU William Ruto Approves 7-10% Salary Increment for Civil Servants Starting Ju… “This technology will replace journalists in the same way that spreadsheets replaced mathematicians — in other words, I don’t think it will,” he told a recent event held by the Science Media Centre. He nonetheless suggested that mundane tasks could be replaced — putting him on the same page as Connock.

French journalists Jean Rognetta and Maurice de Rambuteau are digging further into the question of how ready AI is to take over from journalists. They publish a newsletter called “Qant” written and illustrated using AI tools. Last month, they showed off a 250-page report written by AI detailing the main trends of the CES technology show in Las Vegas. Rognetta said they wanted to “test the robots, to push them to the limit”. They quickly found the limit. The AI struggled to identify the main trends at CES and could not produce a summary worthy of a journalist. It also pilfered wholesale from Wikipedia. The authors found that they needed to intervene constantly to keep the process on track, so while the programs helped save some time, they were not yet fit to replace real journalists. Journalists are “afflicted with the syndrome of the great technological replacement, but I don’t believe in it”, Rognetta said. “The robots alone are just not capable of producing articles. There is still a part of journalistic work that cannot be delegated.”

What does these contrasting views by media experts mean for the average Nigerian Journalist as the Nigerian newsroom isn’t insulated in any way from the vagaries of globalization?

While I don’t want to be a Prophet of Doom, at the same time I don’t want to be a purveyor of cold comfort. The onus rests on the present-day Nigerian Journalist to be well acquainted with AI tools and see how they can be mastered in such a way that he will still be able to boast of a day job or any decent job at all.

A popular journalist became a broadcaster much later in his life and so Nigerian pen journalists should be flexible enough to adapt to how they can still be relevant even with its presence.

We have an antecedent to look up to. The internet and social media greatly reduced the demand for print media journalists as many print media houses folded up. However, journalists who were digitally savvy immediately switched online with some making the kind of fortunes that would never have been envisaged had the disruption not come.

Not to sugarcoat things, AI will definitely disrupt the media as some jobs would definitely go as seen by Axel Springer and even some other media houses in the West. For instance, the advent of social media was a checkmate on the dictatorship of the traditional media. If not for Twitter, which ensured that Tucker Carlson even had a larger audience than when he was a prime time anchor in Fox, he would have been permanently silenced through the dictatorial and brutal non-compete clause.

Change is the only permanent and constant thing in lIfe. Rather than act like the 20th century industrial age English Luddites who saw the machines as their foes and went about destroying them which didn’t stop it for its time had come, Nigerian journalists should realise that the days of running up and down to file stories and reports may be greatly reduced no thanks to alI.

The real tragedy of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart was the failure of the protagonist to swiftly adapt to the change that the Caucasians brought. His nationalism failed him as the same people he fought for – the people of Umuofia refused to even give him a decent burial as he had committed a taboo – suicide which ironically, they weren’t willing to change their minds to suit his interests despite his immense efforts at community building. He was betrayed in death by the very change he resisted.

A word is enough for the wise!

  • Tony Ademiluyi is the CEO of Buzz Times Media and can be reached at [email protected] and +2348167677075

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